I’m seeing on Twitter and elsewhere that The Dream Act should not have passed because it would be “rewarding illegal behavior.”
Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The beneficiaries of The Dream Act would have been first and foremost the country of the United States, and secondarily the up to 65,000 children for whom the United States is largely the only home they’d ever known. The Dream Act would have offered the chance for thousands of children to become what they always considered themselves to be already: Americans.
It was a not a free path to citizenship. The two designers of the Act, Dick Durbin (D, Illinois) and Orin Hatch (R, Utah) wrote it to benefit the country as well- it required either a college degree or two years of military service. As a fair-minded person, I don’t understand the need for hoops– if someone was brought to the United States as a child, it was clearly against their will and they had had no desire to be lawbreakers. Why not offer them citizenship free and clear?
But I can understand why not everyone would have such a charitable attitude. Those of us who were born in the United States often have a selfish, privileged, superior attitude about our Americanness. I don’t get it, but I can try to accept it.
But what I really don’t understand is why even the most conservative Republican would be against The Dream Act. The qualifiers show that only “desirable” child immigrants would eventually be naturalized: those who are capable and driven enough to complete a college degree and/or those who are dedicated enough to this country to promise at least two years of their lives to serving it in the military. I think we all know someone who’s gotten a green card by entering a fake marriage with an American. I think we all know someone who has a skill that made it easier for them to live and work in the United States. Why privilege those people over children who were raised as Americans? I’m talking about children who are educated here, children who root for the Bears and who pledge allegiance to their flag every Monday morning at school with as much sincerity as the children who recite those words next to them. The only difference is that they were born a couple dozen or a couple hundred miles away.
It all goes back to this country’s deep-seeded, and confusing as hell, hatred of the newest flock of immigrants. The Irish, the Italians, the Asians, and, of course, the Mexicans. Sometimes I want to shake every single person in this country of immigrant stock and say “WTF is wrong with you?”
My family’s immigration story, like many white families’, is seen as heroic and gutsy. My great-great grandfather left Norway to homestead in North Dakota after his brother squandered the family’s inheritance on the mid 1880s Oslo version of coke and whores. How ballsy! How heroic!
But yet, the busboy at Red Lobster who is working there and in construction to send money home to his wife in Mexico to raise his two children AND sends money home to his mother, plus pays taxes and FICA, pays for rent and utilities in Milwaukee, plus buys groceries, gasoline, clothing, and everything else regular people buy to live. (This is a real person I worked with at Red Lobster, by the way, not a rhetorical example).
When it came time for his daughter’s quinceanera, this man saved for years. Not just for her gift, not just for the party– mainly, he saved to cover the high cost of coyotes. And why do coyotes have such a lucrative business? Because politically, it looks good to make it hard for people to get in this country, but once they’re in, finding work is easy because there’s so much of it. And there’s so much of it because undocumented immigrants are willing to earn much less than legal counterparts and they don’t fight for holiday pay.
He flew down to Mexico for the party knowing he’d have to arrange a dangerous and expensive trip to come back. It cost him $3,500 to get back to the U.S., the first half he paid the coyotes when he left, and the second half his wife paid the coyotes when he called safely from Texas. And instead of saying “How ballsy! How heroic!” he is called a criminal when he’s working his ass off to give the people he loves a better life. He just had the bad luck to be born in a corrupt, clusterfuck of a country like Mexico.
All of us, Republican or Democrat, political or indifferent, sexy or not, all have a part in our country’s dependence on immigrant labor and how immigrants are treated. Every day, we eat food that was picked or processed by undocumented immigrants. Maybe we ride in a cab driven by one. Perhaps the food in the restaurant we ate in last night was cooked by an undocumented immigrant. I would be willing to bet the dishes were cleaned by one!
Those of us who benefit from undocumented immigrants but work to impair their rights, freedom, and safety are hypocrites. The least we could have done was treated their children a little more fairly.
We are assholes.